THE leader of a drug rehabilitation centre has said calls to end the war on drugs and make heroin available to addicts on the NHS are too ‘simplistic’.
Noreen Oliver (pictured right), chief executive of the Burton Addiction Centre, made the comments after Durham’s chief constable Mike Barton said decriminalising class-A drugs would break the monopoly criminal gangs have on their trade.
Mr Barton said addicts ‘must be treated and cared for and encouraged to break the cycle of addiction. They do not need to be criminalised.’
He said: “If an addict were able to access drugs via the NHS or something similar, then they would not have to go out and buy illegal drugs.
“Buying or being treated with, say, diamorphine is cheap. It’s cheap to produce it therapeutically.
“What I am saying is that drugs should be controlled. They should not, of course, be freely available.”
But Mrs Oliver said many of the UK’s 300,000 registered heroin addicts take a cocktail of drugs and would take non-prescribed drugs as well.
She said: “People think about legalising drugs but it’s not that simplistic.
“Dependency and addiction is about getting ‘out of it’ and doing everything to excess.
“They would take prescribed heroin and go and buy street drugs to take on top to get the addiction to the excess and highs that you want.”
But Mrs Oliver conceded that the current strategy of tackling drug use in the UK ‘is not working’ and more emphasis should be placed on why some users ‘want to feel removed from reality’.
She said: “In Staffordshire the agenda now is to look behind the prescription at everything else and look at the issues to reintegrate the users back into society.”
Mrs Oliver also said in a society where 420,000 young people admitted taking legal highs in the last year, legalising heroin could send out the wrong message.
She said: “If we legalise heroin then what message are we sending out.”